Second-half goals sink Malta

malta-iceland161115Iceland scored twice in the second half to beat Malta 2-0 in a friendly match at the National Stadium on Tuesday.

A game which marked the 123rd appearance for Michael Mifsud, therefore breaking the previous record held by David Carabott. Mifsud, who made his national team debut in February 2010 in a game against Albania, was included as a substitute early in the second half.

Malta coach Pietro Ghedin made three changes to the team which lost narrowly to Slovenia as Clayton Faila, Steve Borg and Alfred Effiong replaced Zach Muscat, Ryan Camilleri and Michael Mifsud in the starting line-up. Andrew Hogg started in goal with Sam Magri, Andrei Agius and Steve Borg as the three central defenders, Joseph Zerafa and Clayton Failla on the flanks, Luke Gambin, Rowen Muscat and Gareth Sciberras in midfield with Andre Schembri and Alfred Effiong in attack.

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Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrímsson, on the other hand, fielded a completely different team from the one which lost to Croatia on Saturday, naming only Birkir Saevarsson in the starting line-up.

Malta had a good opportunity on the 19th minute when Andre Schembri took advantage of an erratic clearance but wasted some time before trying to conclude and served Rowen Muscat. The latter passed the ball to Effiong with the Nigerian-born striker giving an assist to Luke Gambin whose low shot was blocked by a defender. Following a swift counter-attack for Iceland, the ball was cleared into a corner by Steve Borg and from the resulting corner by Sigurjonsson, Kjartanson’s header ended just over the bar.

The locals appealed for a penalty after Alfred Effiong seemed to be pushed down inside the area on the 23rd and a few seconds later, Kjartansson advanced on the right before exchanging the ball with Saevarsson and trying his luck with a shot from the edge of the area which ended just over.

On the 34th, Andrew Hogg came to the rescue with a great save on a flying header by Omarsson. From the resulting corner by Ari Freyr Skulason, Eyjolfsson’s header was cleared of the goal line by a defender. On the other side of the pitch, Joseph Zerafa beat two defenders on the run on the right flank but his cross was deflected into a corner by a defender.

Two minutes in the second half, the visitors took the lead when off a cross from the right by Omarsson, Joseph Zerafa tried to clear the ball but Arnor Ingvi Traustason gained possession and controlled before hitting low past Hogg.

Malta replied with a diagonal shot by Michael Mifsud from the left which ended wide on the 63rd minute. Ten minutes later, Luke Gambin tried his luck with a powerful drive which just missed the target.

Iceland doubled the score on the 75th minute when off a corner from the right by Gudmundsson, Sverrir Ingason headed home past Hogg.

Five minutes from time, Sam Magri went close to scoring a consolation goal but he headed high off a Ryan Camenzuli free kick from the left.

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MALTA Andrew Hogg, Sam Magri, Joseph Zerafa (76′ Ryan Scicluna), Gareth Sciberras (78′ Bjorn Kristensen), Andrei Agius, Clayton Failla (56′ Ryan Camenzuli), Luke Gambin (85′ Steve Pisani), Andre Schembri (64′ Jean Paul Farrugia), Rowen Muscat, Steve Borg, Alfred Effiong (54′ Michael Mifsud).

ICELAND Ingvar Jonsson, Birkir Saevarsson (80′ Theodor Elmar Bjarnason), Holmar Eyjolfsson (80′ Ragnar Sigurdsson), Sverrir Ingason, Vidar Kjartansson (69′ Jon Dadi Bodvarsson), Olafur Skulason (69′ Aron Gunnarsson), Runar Sigurjonsson (58′ Birkir Bjarnason), Elias Omarsson, Arnor Ingvi Traustason, Arnor Smarason (58′ Johann Gudmundsson), Ari Freyr Skulason.

Referee: Arnold Hunter (NIR)
Assistant Referees: David Anderson, George Argy
Fourth Official: Clayton Pisani
Yellow Cards: none
Attendance: 986